The original supermodel talks to Barry Egan about her new play, her ‘perfect’ love, why she’s so proud of her children and how she’s still mesmerised by cheating ex, Mick Jagger.
Yves Saint Laurent was her first fashion show in 1973; she wore his tuxedo. Helmut Newton, her first photographer; she wore a barely there — if at all — black leather, bondage bikini. Helmut had to soothe his tearful model, only 17, that it wasn't porn, but art. She promised her mother before leaving lil' ol' Mesquite, Texas, for France that she would never do nudity. Her mother, a true southern belle, presumably also told her never to keep a gentleman waiting. She is only an hour late for our early evening drinks appointment in London.
She sweeps in through the door of the ultra-plush Langham Hotel in Regent Street in a flurry of high-camp glamour. “The traffic! The traffic!” she hoots in an ostentatious drawl that wouldn't sound out of place in a Tennessee Williams play, a southern twang she has never quite lost, despite living in England for more than two decades.
Jerry looks immaculately glam, even though she's wearing only jeans, a leopard-print top and flat shoes. Every eye, male and otherwise, is immediately trained on this very famous woman suddenly and unmistakably in their midst. Sadly, just as unmistakably, her fingernails, with which she gave Bryan Ferry the flick, are an absolute disgrace. You could grow vegetables under her nails, there is so much muck under them.
“I was gardening today,” Ms Hall, the blue-eyed coquette explains, holding out her hands for examination. “I usually wear gloves. Oh, they're dirty, aren't they? But it is such a beautiful garden. I have a big organic vegetable patch. It is very southern, growing things, isn't it?” she says.
Her earliest memory is the smell of tomatoes in her parents' vegetable garden. Even today, the smell of a tomato plant fills her with recollections that make her tingle inside. “I hate the weather here, but the rain's quite good for the garden,” she adds. “I wouldn't like to live in England, really, but now my children are English, I'm stuck here.”
It doesn't sound too bad when she describes where she's stuck. She lives in a grand mansion, her little bit of Eden “with a garden to die for” in Richmond, a chic hamlet on the Thames in south-west London. “It's lovely, but London traffic is absolute hell,” she says by way of apology for her unpunctuality. I ask her what she will do later tonight.
“I've already made soupe au pistou, at home — it's like a minestrone — and I'll go home and have dinner with Gabriel, my 14-year-old son, and Warwick, my boyfriend, and then my son Jimmy gets home at around 11pm. It is a very nice life.”
The boyfriend is Australian millionaire and sailor Warwick Hemsley. They met in his hometown of Perth two years ago when Jerry was starring in The Graduate. She says he is going to Dublin with her in two weeks when she appears in Love Letters with David Soul at The Gaiety theatre. There is, I swear, a glow in her eyes when she says Warwick is “the nicest man in the world! He is so lovely. He is babysitting at home right now. I don't like to ask him to do that. He is so sweet, so lovely. I am really, really happy. Life is so good. I am trying to spend as much time as I can in the winter in Australia with him.”
First-generation supermodel and icon of Seventies glamour — whatever about being the one-time Mrs Mick Jagger — Jerry Hall has lived the life most women can only imagine.
This is the woman who turned down Salvador Dali; who was best friends with Andy Warhol; who broke Bryan Ferry's heart when she dumped him for Mick in the mid-Seventies. Ferry hasn't spoken to her since. When I ask her does she ever think of ex-lover Mr Roxy Music, she giggles: “Never!” This is the woman who told David Letterman on his TV show in front of 60m viewers that her mother had taught her “the way to keep a man was to be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen, and a whore in the bedroom”.
I say that her mother would have been better served telling her that a man like Mick Jagger would make a great father, but not necessarily a good husband. “She said,” replies Jerry, “‘You should never marry or be with a man who is a womaniser because you'll never be happy. You'll always suffer.' And she was right!”
At what point in all his many dalliances with other women did she think this is enough, this is one humiliation too far?
“When he had a baby with someone else,” Jerry says referring to the news in 1999 that Jagger had got Brazilian model Luciana Morad pregnant. “Then I did get a divorce.” Jerry says she is happier now than ever. “Those days are definitely over,” she says with a laugh, meaning the days of waking up to read about her partner's latest indiscretion in the tabloids. “I have a nice boyfriend now.”
But is she at her happiest each time she falls in love? First, Bryan Ferry, then Mick Jagger, then Warwick Hemsley?
“Oh — no!” she says after a belly laugh. “This is the happiest. Ever. Because every other time it was all dramatic.”
She adds that the drama probably came with being young. “But it is nice now; my kids
are doing great. They are grown-up. I'm financially secure. I do what I want. It is a lovely time in life.” She is a proud mother of four children — Elizabeth (27), James (26), Georgia May (19) and Gabriel (14).
She is going to her friend Tracey Emin's exhibition in Margate the next day. “She has a house right next to mine in the South of France. We spend the summer together.”
Award-winning artist Tracey gives Jerry's son Gabriel painting lessons. He is so talented, she gushes, adding that he did a painting that got chosen by the Saatchi gallery as the best painting in England of any 11- to 13-year-old “a few years ago before he started going to Tracey for lessons. And it was anonymous. They didn't know who he was.
“I am very close to my children. I see them all the time. Actually, I put them above everything. Whenever they are available, everything else goes. They are all doing really well. I am so proud of them. My two daughters are both modelling. Georgia just got a commendation for her photography course — her exhibition. Elizabeth is coming out with organic lipstick. Jimmy has his own band called Turbo Geist. They just got signed to Universal. He is doing his first album. Jimmy also went to Rada. He is so talented. Gabriel wants to go to Cambridge and be a history teacher.”
I ask her, does she still see Mick.
“Yeah. We are very friendly.”
She is quite a dreamy, slightly eccentric woman to spend a hour or two with over some incredibly expensive drinks.
Jerry Hall was born in Texas in 1956, one of five sisters. She and her twin, Terry, were the youngest. She has described her late father, John Hall, a former US Army sergeant, as a “damaged” and “volatile, man” prone to violent “dangerous rages”. She has said in the past he used to beat her and her sisters.
He suffered from a type of post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of what he saw in the Second World War. “He was very messed-up,” she says now.
Does she think that that affected her relationship with men in later life? “Yeah, probably ...”
But she has found love now with Hemsley? “I had no idea life could be so easy!” she says forcefully. “I thought life was just tough and you had to get on with it. Now I see all these people having a really easy time! I just didn't realise!”
Is he the love of her life? “Well ... that's thinking about ‘the best', isn't it? Comparing! I'm not really doing that!” she laughs. “He's perfect!”
Why does she think she fell so deeply in love with Mick Jagger?
“Well you know ... I just don't know, but actually I always found him mesmerising. I just did. And still do! I still do! When he comes over, I can't stop looking at him. I look forward to him coming over. I was totally mesmerised.”
She denies she ever said — as Vanity Fair's contributing editor Bob Colacello once claimed — “I want to marry a millionaire, so I can have caviar any time of the day or night, and take nice, long champagne baths.”
I ask Jerry Hall a stupid question. I ask her if she is rich. “Well, I'm ok, you know,” she smiles. “Theatre certainly wouldn't make you a living, that's for sure. I love coming to Ireland. I go there a lot. I have some really good friends who live in Dublin, Penny and Desmond Guinness. I love John Boorman. He gives the best parties! Great New Year's parties.”
When she is in her garden, does she ever wonder who this creation called Jerry Hall is? All the experiences she has crammed into her life and she's still only 55. “It's so funny because I don't really think in the past. I think in the moment. So when people point things out to me, I am amazed because I don't really think like that.
“Actually, I love gardening and poetry and watching some science programmes. I think I'm a bit of a nerd. I am quite nerdy. That's what amazes me is how I've managed to be so cool and lived in such a cool world when actually I'm quite nerdy,” she rattles with laughter.
“That's one of the things I like about theatre; it is very much in the moment. There is like a magical connection with the audience. I go to the theatre about once a week. I love the theatre. I love the way some of the lines and words stay with you. It can change you even. I think words are very powerful.
“The play that I'm doing in Dublin,” she says referring to AR Gurney's Love Letters at the Gaiety, “is beautifully written. You don't actually have to do anything. The words are so well written. I did it before with David Soul in Dublin a few years ago and I really enjoyed the experience. He's a very good actor. He's a big television star and all that, but actually he's very powerful onstage.”
She says she thought it was wicked when her marriage to Mick was annulled in 1999. Their Hindu wedding ceremony on a beach in Bali in 1990 was later considered invalid in the UK. (It was invalid in other ways, but Jerry put to the back of her mind the fear that he was having an affair with Carla Bruni at the time and went through with the ceremony.)
“The annulment? It was very rude!” she howls like Scarlett O'Hara with Atlanta on fire. “After 23 years and four children! I think he just took his lawyers' advice. I'm sure he wouldn't have done that. I wasn't even asking for money or anything.” Did she not think she could have sorted Jagger out somewhere along the line?
“I don't think you can ever change people.”
You said you got him off heroin when you met him, but you couldn't get him off girls? “You know,” she says, taking a sip of her wine, “I should have been stricter day by day, but I wasn't. It was too much hard work.”
Jerry was discovered on a St Tropez beach when she was 17 by a fashion scout. She had been supposed to go on a school trip to France that got cancelled, but she went anyway.
“I have always been the kind of person when I get an idea I am very single-minded about it. So I flew to France. And I have been like that in everything in life. Whenever I decide to do something, I always do it. I started modelling at 14 in Texas. Everything happened by accident. I have never been ambitious. It's just I have always been in the right place at the right time. I have had ideas and they always seem to materialise without me actually doing anything about it, which is kind of magic,” she drawls with a laugh that goes on forever — just like her legs.
Jerry Hall and David Soul star in Love Letters at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, from Monday, June 18, to Saturday, June 23. Tickets: €17.50-€40 Go to gaietytheatre.ie